Wednesday, August 23, 2006

"Rose Lake is a beautiful place, miles and miles of trails winding through a DNR State Wildlife Area. The nice thing about it, and its greatest drawback and eventual downfall, is that it is open to anyone who knows of its existence. In the winter I see only the "regulars," none of whom are recognizable through layers of clothing [though I know their dogs]. Summertime brings families, "seasonal" dogwalkers, partying highschoolers, and everything in between.

"Sunday was a first, however. Long story short, my dogs and I were followed by a fairly young raccoon [probably less than a year old]. I kept my dogs away from it, having no desire to find out about rabies firsthand, and chased it back with a stick. It kept trying to follow us despite my attempts to chase it away, and it mewed almost like an infant might. The thing probably followed us for 75 or 100 feet before we took off at a run [at which point it ran after us], and then it wasn't behind us anymore.

"We were out on the trail for a few hours, a good part of which I spent thinking about the crazy raccoon following us. Needless to say, that is an unnatural behavior to witness in any animal, unless it intends to make you its lunch. By the time the trailhead was once again near, I had worked out in my head the perfect way to tell the story to my friends.

"Then my dogs took off after something, and a little grey blur went streaking up a tree. The raccoon.

"I was glad it was at least smart enough to run up a tree, and after calling the dogs we walked the remaining distance to the parking area. I noticed some idiot had broken [and left] a lightbulb, and some other idiot had left a fast food bag, so I started to pick up the shards of glass. The dogs sat nearby in the shade. Then I heard a familiar mewing coming from some bushes, and a little bandit's face appeared.

"I grabbed a nearby stick and told the dogs to heel, and we walked back to my car so I could put the dogs in. It followed us, occassionally scampering back a ways as my stick dictated. After closing the dogs into the car, I looked around for the raccoon and saw it underneath my car, apparently playing with some grass caught near the exhaust. I stealthily grabbed my purse, keeping a wary eye out for grey blurs, and walked around in an attempt to find cell phone service. My plan was to call my father to ask if there was a DNR or Animal Control number I could call to come get this thing. No point in some seasonal dogwalker getting bit, I figured.

"After a static-y and short conversation with him, a woman emerging from the woods asked if it had been following me as well. I told her it had, and she told me she thought someone had been keeping it as a pet and had dumped it out here. In my zeal for adventure and a sensational story, I had completely neglected to think about any possibilities other than RABID RACCOON CHASES, DEVOURS YOUNG WOMAN AND DOGS."

I wrote the above a few weeks ago, soon after that Sunday afternoon. It is now August 31st. Since that day, my mind has been travelling back repeatedly to what occurred. I can't get the image out of my mind, him playing at our feet with pebbles as we discussed what his fate would certainly be. An owl, no doubt, or a dog— hopefully an owl, for that would be a surely swifter death.

It's not fair, really, that humans have such capacity both for good and destruction. While there are many among us who devote themselves to improving the standards of living among people and animals alike, there are far more whose thoughts never stray far from their material posessions and expensive upcoming vacations. Those who do care might not want to make a show of it, as is the case of President Bush who's a known "environmentalist" when his GOP buddies aren't skulking around nearby.

What do we have to show for our nonchalance, our inaction, our embarassment in potentially being labeled a "tree-hugger"? Increasing temperatures, violent storms, harsh droughts and unforgiving floods, the extinction of undiscovered species, mutation in frogs, depleted resources, rising energy costs, lower standards of living, war.

Maybe I should reevaluate what I consider to be important, because one potentially sick or potentially abandoned raccoon has occupied my thoughts so consistently. But that animal is symbollic of all the things wrong with the way we view nature and the world around us.

I don't know what happened to him. He was gone by my next return to Rose Lake.

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